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The Heiress



with Anne Stallybrass,  Patrick Cargill AND
Martin Jarvis

Theatrical Trio talk to “KT”

In a room over a pub in the Kings Road, Chelsea, a Forsyte, one of the Six Wives of Henry VIII and Father Dear Father were deep in conversation.

They were, of course, three of the most regarded actors in the country:  Martin Jarvis, Anne Stallybrass and Patrick Cargill, rehearsing for “The Heiress” which opens at Bromley New Theatre next Monday.

In the play, an adaptation by Ruth and Augustus Goetze of Henry James novel, “Washington Square”, Patrick Cargill plays a domineering father, most unlike his television role.  Anne Stallybrass, his daughter and Martin Jarvis her suspect suitor.

These three actors, with such different styles and reputations, look like making a very impressive team, from the little I saw of their rehearsal.  Afterwards they talked about their careers and attitudes to their professions.

I shall ways remember Patrick Cargill as an absolutely terrifying leather-coated Nazi in a children’s television serial some years ago.  But he is probably best-known for his comic parts on the stage - including 3 years and 150 performances in “Boeing Boeing” - and on the television with his current “Father Dear Father” success, and the series of French farces.

“I never wanted to be anything else but an actor,” he told me.  “I used to tell people that and they’d pat me on the head and say ‘He’ll grow out of it,’ but I never did.

“I started sweeping the stage in a repertory theatre and was promoted to carrying the props into the wings - but not on to the stage.  Someone much more senior did that!  My ‘big break’ came when I was actually allowed to say some lines.”

He was fifteen years in repertory before he started to get television parts.  “That was a long time ago … Yogi Bear was still perfecting the technique,” he said wryly.

“I love television and I’m very grateful to it, but the live stage was the whole point of entering the profession.  I’m an old-fashioned square actor, I love the proscenium arch, red velvet curtains and all the nostalgia.

“But don’t say I hate television, or I’ll never get another job!”

This was a viewpoint shared by all the three - that although they loved working in television and films (“Not that anyone ever offers me parts in films,” said Mr Cargill, who delights in self-denigration), nothing could beat the stimulation of working in front of a live audience and eliciting a response from them.  They explained that it was the fascination of playing a part night after night, keeping it fresh and trying to get better.

Triple Task

Martin Jarvis recalled the time when he was working in three media at one.  “I was making a Dracula film in the mornings, recording ‘War and Peace’ for BBC radio in the afternoons and appearing on the stage in the evenings.  It was exhausting but fascinating.”

Like his older colleague, Martin started by sweeping the stage.  “When, after six months, he was still sweeping the stage, I thought I ought to go to drama school.”  He went to RADA and then into repertory, for a time in Croydon.  He is the only one familiar with Bromley New, for he appeared here last autumn in “Divorce in Chancery”.

Attractive Anne Stallybrass, who played Jane Seymour in the Henry VIII series, also followed the traditional course from college, the Royal Academy of Music, where she took a drama course and left a qualified teacher of speech and English - into provincial repertory.

They are all convinced that this is the right way to start in the theatre.  “You don’t start learning until you leave drama school,” said Martin.  “You’re a bit like a bicycle pump.  You spend three years inflating yourself until you think you’re brilliant, then go into rep.  And whoosh, you’re immediately deflated.  You then spend the next fifteen years slowing inflating yourself again.”

“It’s much better to get a grounding in the live theatre,” said Miss Stallybrass.  “It’s far easier to get into films and television from the theatre than vice versa.  I can’t understand students leaving college wanting to go straight into films.  I mean, what’s the point?  What did they go to college for,” she said, displaying that enthusiasm and love of the theatre that marked them all.  Said Mr Cargill, in one of his rare serious moments:  “The thing about this profession is that you never stop learning - and never stop loving to learn.”

TV Personalities

All three actors are well-known figures on television and agree that they tend to be typecast and not offered parts out of their established character.  Patrick Cargill:  “You have to accept it.  If someone thinks you’re good in comic parts you’ll always get them.  But that is one reason why I’m so happy to be doing this part in ‘The Heiress’.  For one thing it is nice to think someone has enough confidence that I can still do a grim part.  I’m really enjoying finding out if I still have my stern face in my make-up box.”

Anne Stallybrass:  “That’s funny.  It’s exactly the reverse of me.  At college I always got the comic maid parts because I thought I was best at them and now I’m longing to do comedy and all I’m allowed to do is tragedy.”

Martin Jarvis:  “I always used to get the nasty public schoolboy part - a real baddie - but ever since I started to do classic serials for the BBC I’ve been getting all the nice boy parts, like Jon Forsyte.”


Had they any unfulfilled ambitions?  “To get another job after this,” joked Patrick.  “It might have been nice to be a barrister,” he mused, “but then only the juicy cases, otherwise it would be deadly.  No, I think I’d like to play the piano like Peter Nero and sing like Frank Sinatra.”

Anne Stallybrass said she had too many ambitions to mention and Martin Jarvis confessed to a longing to be able to play the cello.

But the immediate future holds plenty of work for the three when they part after a three week run at the New.  Patrick Cargill will be recording another thirteen episodes of “Father Dear Father,” Anne will be taking part in a series called “The Onedin Line” for the BBC, and Martin Jarvis is also hoping to be in a BBC adaptation of Wilkie Collins, “The Moonstone”.

Last words about the success of “The Heiress”.  Anne:  “If it weren’t a challenge, you wouldn’t do it, would you?”

Martin:  “The thing is, will we know the words by the first night?”

Patrick:  “Well, the play’s the thing, isn’t it?”

Anne Avery

Kentish Times
16 April 1971

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